Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Farcical Dystopia

That is the best way to describe Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

Our hero is named "Sam Lowery" who is introduced to us in some sort of Icarus-suit in a setting that looks exactly like the old Tri-Star logo where the pegasus is galloping/flying through the clouds.

Sam works in one of the many divisions of the Ministry of Information, apparently the only government agency, certainly the most powerful. The reason for this is that tracking information, cataloging it, stamping it, filing it, is the most important thing in this bureaucratic world gone wrong--something that Hermes Conrad from Futurama would understand.

A incomplete collection of interesting things that I noticed while thoroughly enjoying this movie that I have wanted to see for years:

  1. Almost everything has a serial number (As a related point of interest--my cubicle at work is id #PRPL 33.).
  2. This movie has the absurdity of Dr. Strangelove, the Rube Goldbergesque contraptions of Wallace and Gromit or the oddly complicated technology of 12 Monkeys (another Gilliam favorite of mine). There are tubes everywhere--even wonderful pneumatic tubes, strange rubber bladders inflating and deflating, ducts running from floor to ceiling.
  3. Enemies of the state and suspected terrorists (who are bombing randomly throughout the movie) are trussed up in burlap bags with grommets, interrogated and/or counseled while swinging along ceiling-mounted tracks like sides of cattle.
  4. The soulless, vast empty bureaucratic spaces remind me of the upper reaches of the Hudsucker building
  5. Teletype machines constantly clacking evoke in me memories of the Prayer Machines mentioned in The Handmaid's Tale.
  6. The ending of the samurai battle dream sequence is lifted straight out of Luke's confrontation of Vader at Dagobah--but since both movies came out in 1985, who thought of it first?
  7. There are funny government propaganda signs everywhere. They say such things as Suspicion Breeds Confidence; Don't Suspect a Friend, Report Him; Trust in Haste, Regret at Leisure; Mind that Parcel. Eagle Eyes Can Save a Life. There is also an advertisement for Mellowfields Top Security Holiday Camps--Luxury without Fear, Fun without Suspicion, Relax in a Panic-Free Atmosphere.
  8. The ducts, the persistent rectangles of the buildings, the boxy subway-like transports--everything reminds me of the Borg cubes.
  9. Robert DeNiro played wacky long before Analyze This. One scene in particular was an odd echo of Godfather II--when the young, immigrant Vito Corleone (played by DeNiro) has killed the white-suited neighborhood Don, on what I think was Easter Sunday or at least some sort of Catholic Italian religious holiday. He then dismantled his gun, throwing the pieces down various chimneys. In this movie DeNiro's "Harry Tuttle" is a
  10. 'terrorist"/unauthorized plumber against the Ministry-run government. Near the end of the movie (on Christmas Eve--another religious holiday) Tuttle threw parts of his terrorist garb down a Keep Your City Tidy tube.
This random list of observations doesn't capture the Britishness of this movie, the senseless bureaucracy, the efforts to rail against mindless authority. An excellent film that you should see.

5 comments:

David said...

Please, if you choose to see this film, get the DVD and listen to Terry Gilliam's commentary.

It is excellent.

Sven Golly said...

See it and see it again! This film makes up for every bad movie ever made. The nightmarish social encounters, the tragicomic workplace dynamics, the dreamgirl driving a big truck, there's no way to describe how good it is, except that Gilliam = Genius.

Jack Thunder said...

thanks to both of you for the p.s.a.
i agree that Brazil is necessary viewing.

when i first saw the film as a young twenty-something in the '90s (does anyone remember that horrible decade when we had a Dem. president and our worst crime against humanity was forming the WTO?), i liked it but mostly just for the Gilliam-ness of it. i was pretty slow and apolitical back then (in the way of the casually conservative, ...er, "libertarian," i mean).
but i watched it again 2 years ago, and was much more impressed.

my working a corporate job for the first time was one thing, but the Bush administration was what really made the movie meaningful to me.

i feel a little bad for not seeing "The Brothers Grimm," but i am more enthusiastic for his upcoming movie "Tideland" which will be out soon.

lulu said...

It's November 22, and Terry Gilliam turns 65 today. Happy Birthday, Terry!

Sven Golly said...

totally cosmic harmonic convergence of universal forces unbeknownst...or did you plan that? Even so, happy birthday, Terry!